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The Great Resignation in the Rearview Mirror

Lessons from forced quitting

In April 2020, The U.S. experienced the highest rate of unemployment since the Labor Department started collecting the data in 1948. The rate spiked from 4.4% to 14.8% in that month. During March and April of that year, 20 million people left their jobs. Of course, that was mostly not by choice. The start of the COVID pandemic caused an almost immediate shutdown of economic life.

Most of those people returned to work by early 2021, reflected by a drop in unemployment to just over 6%. However, April 2021 marked the beginning of another massive change in the job market, the Great Resignation.

During the following year, unprecedented numbers of workers voluntarily quit.

And now, according to a recent article by Lora Kelley in The Atlantic, the Great Resignation is over. “American workers are largely staying put.” This is strongly supported by the U.S. Labor Department’s monthly data on quitting. Voluntary quitting rates have steadily fallen from their April 2022 peak, returned to pre-pandemic levels by July 2023, and have continued to decline.

With the Great Resignation “solidly in the rearview mirror,” Kelley asks a great question: “Why were so many people quitting, anyway?”

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